PSA ♦ Kids, Teach your Parents to Derby

Derby Dog

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I’ve been noticing lately that when I attend local fat-bike gatherings, there are either very few participants or (gasp!) no derby, called – or celebrated. A fat-bike group ride without a derby or three, is the slippery slope to the dark side of the force – the tiny leak that eventually let’s the all the fun run right out of stuff.

So we’re appealing to children of, no matter what age, to teach your parent or the grown up, whom’s brain, you inhabit, to derby. We don’t really think that very many kids, read, so this is, for the most part , an appeal to the kid that lives somewhere, filed deep in the archives of your adult brains.

Way back in the 80’s, when I worked at ABC Cyclery in downtown Arlington Heights we derbied, but we called it cut-off. I believe the term derby was a regional colloquialism that came out of Minneapolis bike culture. Minneapolis is one of the Mecca’s of our beloved omni terrain fat-bike culture and we ask that all of you kids out there, share this little bit of bike history, with your grown up side, because your mature brain  loves the history channel as much as your kid brain loves to go out and play bikes.

I was first exposed to Derby through singlespeeding. One of the first recollections of being at an event, where there was a derby, was Dirt Rag’s Punk Bike Enduro near Pittsburgh. We always have multiple derbies at GnomeFest. The SSUSA Championship Belt is awarded, not to the winner of the cross country course, but to the winner of….you guessed it, the derby. Jessie LaLonde won both last year at SSUSA-Levis. So we invite everyone to celebrate group rides with a little break for beverages or a snack and Derby.

Derby at SSUSA
Derby at SSUSA

I suppose, if you read this far along, you might be curious, as to…. wtf is a derby? Well stand by for what I found on the interwebs!

Holy Crap! – There was nothing….Well here’s the version we play at Gnomefest.

The Ladies Derby at GnomeFest 2014
The Ladies Derby at GnomeFest 2014

A group of riders starts to ride in a circle, usually in response to someone bellowing Derby! The call is repeated and people grab the bike closest to them and start to join the group riding peacefully around and around. When a sufficient number of participants have joined the parade, usually, but not always, the dominant chimp says, ‘derby on’ and then the participants start to maneuver in an attempt to make other riders, put their foot down. Once a rider puts a foot down, they are out for that round and help form a boundary of bikes and riders, to contain the the remaining riders. Riders are eliminated, till there are only two people in the derby, with the crowd gathered close around the winner is the last one on two wheels.

We do have a few rules, in what we call Gentlemen’s Derby. You have to keep your hands and your feet on your own bicycle. There is no deliberate t-boning allowed. But it’s important to mention, that there are other areas, like MPLS and KC, where those two rules would definitely not apply. I’ve derbied in all of those places and survived. Hell, I’ve derbied in North Dakota with the dust combining with the halogen lights at night into a swirling fog, and that is exactly the sort of memories, that we need to make sure continues for generations to come. In the last year, I went to the fat bike worlds and national championships and guess what? No derbies. Fat Bikes are better that that amigos. Now that you know what a derby is, the next step, is to know what a derby looks, feels, smells, tastes and sounds like. You need to derby.

About Gomez 2576 Articles
Just an old cat that rides bikes, herds pixels, ropes gnomes and sometimes writes stories. I love a good story.


  1. Haha! This brings back memories. We always called it “Bike Chicken” and occasionally did it in a bit of a demolition derby style with some restraint if we had an array of old steel cruiser style bikes. Could grab people handlebars and brakes, and a favorite was the backwards “mule kick” to the headtube of your opponents bike to send them backwards and very rarely over their bars. Or the hard to execute “hook and sweep” where you would hook their wheel with your foot and try to sweep the it out from under them. Fun times! Will have to try and get a round going sometime in the future.

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